When it comes to criminal cases, people have some clarity that some crime has been committed. Although, there might be lack of in-depth clarity to ordinary citizens, they have an idea since imprisonment is a deterrent for most. The difference between criminal law and civil law lies with the types of cases dealt with. While acts affecting the society due to harm caused, like murder, violence, theft are examples of criminal laws.
On the contrary, disputes related to property, terms of business, and tenancy matters are different types of civil cases. However, a layman commonly assumes only property disputes to fall under the umbrella of civil matters in the courts. To bring clarity on this aspect, the different types of civil suits in CPC (Civil Procedure Code, 1908) have been explained below. This will bring some clarity on the kind of matters heard and decided by the civil courts in India.
The different kinds of civil suits mentioned in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 have been explained below. The categorization depends upon the nature of disputes/ matters brought in the civil courts.
Suits in general under part 1 of CPC 1908 fall under the category of regular suits. It usually includes disputes related to title, recovery of money, declaration, suit for redemption, rendition of accounts, etc. Also, the pecuniary limit for such matters is less than or equal to Rs 5 lakh. Additionally, in an ordinary or regular suit, the defendant is entitled to defend his/ her case before the court.
There are some types of civil suits in India having special characteristics to distinguish them from ordinary matters. Such examples of civil cases have been provided under part 4 of the Civil Procedure Code. Suit by or against the government or government officers in their official capacity, or suit for enforcement of a public right, exemption, etc. are some of the examples of civil cases regarded as special under CPC.
Suits filed under the Order XXXVII of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 are termed as summary suits. Matters related to promissory notes, hundis, bills of exchange, etc. constitute summary suits fall under this category. In summary suits, the defendant has to apply for the court’s leave to defend the case since the same does not come as a right. The time limit to prove the defendant's facts is also very limited (10 days).
Petty matters civil in nature, whose value does not exceed Rs 500 or Rs 1000 (as decided by the concerned State governments) are decided by a court of small causes. Such courts were established in India under the Presidency Small Cause Courts Act,1882. As per section 24 of the Act, an appeal against matters decided by the courts of small causes lies with the District Courts. For a civil matter in Kolkata having value less than Rs 500, it may be taken up by small-cause courts in the concerned district. A civil lawyer in Kolkata may help with representation before the court.
Also read How to file a civil suit in India?
The Code of Civil procedure mostly lays the process to be followed in the civil courts. However, there are several statutes which provide for the laws which eventually lead to a civil dispute. For example, the Indian Contract Act, 1872 provides for what a contract is and how it is considered valid. This and other such examples of civil cases have been explained below.
A contract mentions the various terms and conditions to which the parties agree. A dispute occurs when one or both the parties diverge from the conditions agreed between the parties. A contract dispute includes controversy among landlord-tenant, consumers, businesses, etc. whereby certain terms are agreed upon by the parties involved. In such cases, usually the contract document is the base for discussion, unless some term is contrary to the applicable law under Indian Contract Act, 1872 or otherwise.
‘Stay orders’ are commonly understood by ordinary people for the purpose of refraining someone from doing a specific act which steps on their rights. Court orders in one of the types of civil cases when parties are required to refrain or do some particular act, are termed as injunction. It is of the following types:
An act or omission causing injury or harm to another whereby usually, the duty of care is compromised is called tort. A suit for compensation against damages incurred results in a civil action of torts. Examples of tort cases include negligence, strict and absolute liability, nuisance, etc.
When a number of people have suffered the same loss due to the act of another, which is one among the examples of civil cases, it is termed as class action. Any one of those persons can initiate the civil action with or on behalf of the others in the court of appropriate jurisdiction. Examples may include wage claims, dangerous gas emission in an area, etc.
To recover money from someone who owes the same and is not willing to pay back, suit for recovery initiates action through courts. Order 4 of the Civil Procedure Code provides for the same.
The state as well as central government and the corresponding departments are considered as juristic persons for suing and being sued. Hence, types of civil cases under the special category can be done against the government as well as per section 80 of the CPC Code.
When it comes to civil disputes, property is said to be the major subject matter. Whether it is for land partition or possession, there are a variety of matters that have the potential of making people each other’s enemy. All such kinds of civil cases are witnessed in the courts.
There are times when the rightful owner of a property is unknown, or there is a dispute regarding who should be the rightful owner among a bunch of people. In such cases, people have to knock on the doors of a civil court to legally analyse who the real owner is.
It is usually the matter when a tenant occupying the landlord’s property refuses to leave the premises. Rather than using force, a suit for eviction is lodged in the court to evict the tenant after determining the tenancy. Suppose a property is located in Kolkata and the owner is forcefully evicting the tenant before the term agreed upon, even in such a case the tenant can approach the court through a lawyer in Kolkata.
When the parties to a contract seek some specific act to be performed by the other party in furtherance of the terms agreed upon, or implied, the action is pursued in civil court. The matter is initiated under the Specific Relief Act, 1963.
Civil matters are infamous for taking more and more time. There are some reasons behind the same. First, the judges dealing with civil matters are also the ones who deal with criminal and other matters. Secondly, criminal matters have more risk of infringing the innocent accused rights and tampering with evidence. Hence, they are prioritised over the civil ones. Lastly, civil matters are complex enough for someone to understand quickly just by going through the facts. The above categorization of types of civil cases must have already proven to be a glimpse of such complexity.